Highly acclaimed entrepreneurship award to NTNU

Marius Tuft Mathisen at NTNU won The Heizer Dissertation Award for his research within the field of entrepreneurship. .

By Frode Halvorsen

Associate Professor Marius Tuft Mathisen received The Heizer Dissertation Award at the annual Academy of Management (AOM) conference held this year in Chicago. The conference is the largest of its kind, and is the most important place of academic discussion in the management field. Mathisen is one of the few Europeans and the first Scandinavian to win the award which has been awarded since the 1970s.

Mathisen’s dissertation “The Growth of Research-Based Spin-offs: Unleashing the Value of Academic Entrepreneurship is based on a unique database developed by Mathisen and colleagues, which tracks the full population of new ventures established to commercialize research results from universities and research institutes in Norway. The dissertation contributes with novel perspectives on how to understand, evaluate and predict the outcome of such spin-off firms. AOM found the dissertation to be of impressive scientific quality with important implications for both practice and theory. Mathisen also got praise for extraordinary scientific craftmanship.

Marius Tuft Mathisen receives his award
Marius Tuft Mathisen receives his award

A more nuanced perspective

In cooperation with a team of students at the NTNU School of Entrepreneurship, Mathisen constructed an extremely detailed data set to enable a more nuanced and complete perspective of how research-based spin-offs actually develop, grow, and perform.

– These companies are expected to create employment, economic value, and regional effects, but there was lacking knowledge about how these firms actually performed as a group. Traditionally it was common only to look at metrics such as revenue growth or survival, but these measures proved to be too superficial alone to adequately explain the growth behavior of spin-offs. Mathisen’s study was original in that it took both a combined quantitative and qualitative view on a full national population of spin-offs evaluated over a very long time period. He was able to look beyond the surface.

Valuable acquisitions while still unprofitable

Mathisen’s study shows that only a small fraction of spin-offs established represents almost all value creation.

-In contrast to other type of start-ups these companies often commercialize uncertain, innovative, and radical technology. The result is that very few succeed, but those that make it can be very important and valuable, says Mathisen.

He also found a tendency for incumbent companies to acquire the most promising spin-offs before they get grow to become large companies themselves.

-This is an important element that’s been largely overlooked so far. Some spin-offs disappear with no economic or societal impact while in reality they actually merge into larger companies. Also, there has been an assumption that spin-offs have continuous and stable growth, but this is not the case at all. For the majority of firms, growth is both discontinuous and erratic

Continue investing in science commercialization and spin-offs

Mathisen’s dissertation is important for science policy and spin-off management since the Norwegian government is investing heavily in this field through, amongst others, the FORNY program administrated by the Research Council of Norway. His study offers nuanced perspectives and tools on how to understand and evaluate this unique group of companies.

– I really hope that I have managed to illustrate that it makes sense to continue supporting science commercialization and entrepreneurship.

He currently works as the CEO at Appfarm AS, a company commercializing an innovative software technology. He also maintains a position as Associate Professor at the Faculty of Economics and the Engage Center at NTNU.

Mathisen is actively working with student entrepreneurship at the NTNU School of Entrepreneurship. He argues that students can play an important part in the success of many spin-offs.

-First class science and technology is not enough to be able to develop spin-offs successfully. These companies also need commercial and market-based expertise added to the start-up team. In this respect students and other external entrepreneurs can play important roles, says Mathisen.

For more information, contact Marius Tuft Mathisen: marius.mathisen@ntnu.no